John Dorsey, Tamba Hali, And Alternative Ways The Kansas City Chiefs Can Save Salary Cap Space


Salary cap space is going to be the talk of the Kansas City Chiefs town for the next six weeks as the Chiefs are going to need to open up some room in order fit some of their high priced free agents and fill some holes for their 2015 roster.

Much of the early discussion has involved the release of Tamba Hali, who could save the Chiefs around $9 million in cap space if the Chiefs decided to part ways with him. But cutting Hali isn’t the only option for the Chiefs if they want to reduce his near $12 million cap charge for the 2015 season. It would seem, too, like general manager John Dorsey wants to keep him around.

Dorsey spoke reporter BJ Kissel in a post that went live on Monday morning, and Dorsey’s comments did not sound like the kind that would come from a general manager who is keen on letting a player walk.

"“He’s got professional pride,” Dorsey said. “I love everything that he’s done this year, he’s stayed true. What he told me way back last spring, what he was going to do, he did.“I like the person; I like how he plays the game of football. You could see against the Chargers, he still has a little spring left in his leg, which was very impressive to see.”"

Contrast that to Dorsey’s comments about wide receiver Dwayne Bowe:

"“I think what we have to do is we have to assess the season. What I want to do is I want to see what the personnel guys’ year summary is, the coaches’ summary is, I want to be able to get together with Andy (Reid) and kind of let’s put a plan together moving forward here to see what’s best for the organization as we move forward here.”"

That’s a full quote from a question that was specifically asked about Bowe. Yikes, right? There’s a clear difference between his immediate reaction to Bowe as opposed to Hali. Add in Dorsey’s comments about the stats speaking for themselves when asked about the wide receiver group and the Chiefs’ need for cap space, and it would seem clear Bowe’s future seems far more in doubt than Hali’s.

This isn’t to say Hali is for sure going to be a Kansas City Chief in 2015, but reading between the lines you can see Dorsey seems more willing to find a way to keep Hali than he does Bowe at this stage of the offseason.

Add those Dorsey comments to an interesting quip from Peter King in his MMQB column this morning.

"“I’d keep Tamba Hali if I were the Chiefs.”"

Few are more connected to NFL front offices than King, and King is the type of guy who won’t say anything like this if he’s not hearing it from others around the NFL. Does this mean he talked to Dorsey and Dorsey said he’s trying to find a way to keep Hali? No. But someone out there of note is talking about how the Chiefs need to find a way to keep Hali in an off-the-record forum. Otherwise I don’t see why King would say something like this as his random note for saying the Chiefs are the 14th best team in the NFL according to his power rankings.

What’s added to this mix is the vibe Hali seems to give off when it comes to his playing future. There is some question of how much longer Hali intends to keep playing football. At age 31 next season and with some knee injuries over the last two years continuing to hobble him, Hali is on the last throws of his career. But Hali doesn’t sound like a guy who intends to hang on as long as possible, but instead be the kind of player who hangs it up when he knows he can’t play at the level that fits his personal standards.

"“I love playing the game,” Hali said. “I put my body in a position to be able to play and compete every year. As long as my body is able to function to where I like for it to and I can play at a high level, then I’ll be around wherever.”"

It would seem Hali would be willing to retire if he can’t compete at the level he’s accustomed to, which puts the Chiefs in a better ‘future cap’ situation than if there was though Hali was playing to max out his earning potential. This is where the Chiefs can work with Hali to find a deal that still compensates Hali fairly but gives the Chiefs more flexibility with the salary cap.

So what could the Chiefs do to keep Hali?

One example is for the Chiefs could extend Hali’s contract by two years – through 2017 – and restructure his 2015 cap number by converting his salary into a signing bonus. That plus some negotiating on his guaranteed salary for 2016 and 2017 could keep Hali in Kansas City a few more seasons. That kind of deal could save the Chiefs around $6 million in salary cap space for 2015 while keeping their options flexible for 2016 and 2017. And if Hali falls of a cliff in terms of performance? Well then Hali seems like the type to retire and save the Chiefs their designated cap hit that’s due to him.

There’s reason to think the Chiefs could get a productive Hali for another two or three seasons, too. Last season’s first round pick Dee Ford flashed the ability to get to the passer in the final month of the season, and looks like a guy who is going to see a significant increase in snaps next season. Ford’s increased playing time could mean more rest for the aging to Hali, who could conserve some of his energy and his ailing knees.

This move, plus the seemingly inevitable cut of Dwayne Bowe, and the equally inevitable move of Eric Berry to the non-football injury list could potentially save the Chiefs about $25 million in cap space. Do that along with a few small moves that seem obvious (cut A.J. Jenkins, Donnie Avery, Chase Daniel) and the Chiefs could save the necessary cap without having to lose too much of their roster or make decisions on guys like Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito.

A mass exodus of players or a complete sacrifice of the future salary doesn’t have to happen for the Chiefs to open up immediate salary cap relief. There are no massive leaps or hurdles and mind has to make in order to envision a scenario where the Chiefs can keep veterans, like Hali and DJ, and still have enough salary cap space to re-sign Justin Houston and make some moves in free agency. It won’t be an easy take, but it is a doable and realistic chance for Dorsey and the Chiefs.

Keeping Hali in the mix of the Chiefs pass rush only keep the Chiefs moving forward towards becoming a perennial playoff contender. Maybe all is not lost after all.